AMA with Duncan Pearson: Designing for Performance and Scale

edited January 2023 in Spotlight Series

Duncan Pearson, Anaplan's Chief Architect, joins us for this session of AMA. From planning to problem-solving,  Duncan's a key player in the Anaplan ecosystem.

Tell us a little bit about your background. How long have you been at Anaplan?

I’ve worked in the planning/operational research space for 30 years, working for BA and Nestlé before setting up a small consultancy and then spending a number of years working with our founder Michael Gould at Adaytum and Cognos before he set off on his own to found Anaplan. I actually joined Anaplan just over 4½ years ago working in York on the core engine and then moved into my current role two years ago.

As Anaplan’s Chief Architect, what are some activities you might do in a typical day?

I don’t really have a “typical” day, but one thing I am never short of is meetings. I try to keep up with all the major development projects, which means working some Pacific time, giving guidance particularly on the impact different projects have on each other. I also spend time working with the more customer-facing parts of the organization, such as support and the OEG, to keep abreast of any challenges our customers might be facing.

What’s your favorite thing about Anaplan?

So there are two things really and I can’t decide which is the best. On the one hand, it’s the people I work with. I have more good friends within Anaplan than I have ever had at work before, and everyone I work with is so committed to Anaplan, and particularly to its customers’ success. It’s great. The other thing is Anaplan itself. I love using the platform to solve problems and to build things. It is something I don’t get to do enough of in my daily work but every time I do it lifts me up.

Give us one fun fact about yourself!

I once tried to teach Michael J Fox to row. I was working as an extra in a feature-length episode of Family Ties, called “Family Ties Vacation,” and as part of the story, he had to win a race in the crew that I was part of. He was a great guy and really friendly.

Note: The live Q&A session is now closed.

Link to the YouTube video Duncan referenced:



  • We're looking forward to next week when Chief Architect, Duncan Pearson, joins us to host the next AMA. Get your questions ready and post them here beginning Monday through Wednesday. If you think the Chief Architect is all work and no play, be sure to read Duncan's bio to learn more about his brush with fame!

  • The AMA is now open. Select the Reply button to post your questions today through Wednesday. If you haven't participated here before, now is your chance to connect directly with our Chief Architect. Duncan is looking forward to your questions!

  • Duncan-

    What are the biggest opportunities you see for improvement in our current platform?  Could be specific functionality or general theme.



  • Do you have a vision or view of how you see Anaplan being used in the next 10 years.   Anaplan's core technology dramatically changes how planning is understood and executed.  In your view what are they key things that the technology will change.

  • Do we have checklist which we can use to ensure a model is designed for performance and scalibility.

    I am sure that the Performance Team does the analysis manually to detect where impreovements can be made.

    It would be good that this process on identifyiing bottlenecks and perfoemance can be shared so we can do or own checks.

  • What are you most proud of during your time at Anaplan?

  • Could you provide some details, in layman terms, into the Platform architecture itself, how the in-memory engine functions/calculates, and why designing for performance and scale early on is so important? 

  • I have seen in the community where we been advised to retrieve calculationdirectly from the source module instead of the intermediate or calculated line item.


    for eg Report Module

    Revenue = Revenue. PnL



    Gross Profit formula could be written as:

    Method 1  Revenue-COGS

    or Method 2 Revenue. PnL- COGS= CGS.PnL

    The second approach  has been recommended as it does need to wait for line Revnue and COGS to be calculated.
    My question is that in this method it seems the same calculation/retrieveing to be done twice. Is it really faster and more efficent?

  • Few general questions to understand reasoning for the performance:

    1) Does Anaplan support parrallel processing or its all sequential at the backend.

    2) Does Anaplan support mulithreading?

    3) Does Sparsity affects performance or only space?

    4) Is there any difference when calculations are done in a list ie properties or in a module? Should we store values to be calculated in modules only and not in list porperties.

    5) Does Number of  Hireachies has any impact on performance?

    6) When a Model is open, does all the memory is loaded up or it depends on the modules you open? This question is from my background on TM1 where the perfromance is impacted by the cubes being loaded rather than the whole model.

  • Today is the last day to get your questions in for Duncan's AMA. Check out the questions that have already been posted, give a Kudo to those you like, and then add your question here. Ask Duncan Anything!

  • What are some of the new features/functionality we can expect for a Hyperblock 2.0?


    Not looking for any promises, just curious where you see the tech heading!

  • Hi,

    The maximum workspace size is 130 gig.
    Is there any impact on performance when the size is reaching 130 gig.

    If so at what size does the performance start to impact.

    If a customer has 130 gig space and has two models and lets say each 50 gig each, does it make any difference if the split it 2 workspace or have it in 1 workspace?
  • Duncan-

    I am curious about your experience with calculators/utilities in Anaplan. We have developed a unit economics calculator for "plug and play" metrics on a given loan subset. Since users are performing inputs (i.e. loan mix, interest rate, etc.), adjusting lookups, etc. on a dashboard, we cannot allow users to use the same model at the same time without impacting the calcs. Because of this, we have multiple versions of the model with 10+ users and have to communicate use. This is not a scalable approach and would love to hear your thoughts on potentially better ways to do this.



  • Are we going to get more functionality for charting?  I really don't like having to show EXCEL charts with my Anaplan dashboard.



  • @bradley.sisson  Here is the link to the complete YouTube video that Duncan mentioned in his reply to your question: 

  • Duncan's video is now live! Watch the entire video from start to finish, or select the question topic you're most interested in from the drop down menu to begin there. Check back anytime to listen to the complete session. 

    Thank you for your participation in the AMA! Watch for updates on the next session, featuring Will Sippl answering your questions on Workflow.